Friday, March 01, 2019

Friday Evening Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Kate Aronoff highlights the lack of realism on the part of "adult" politicians demanding that the existential threat of climate breakdown be met with a grossly insufficient response. And Anders Fremstad and Mark Paul write about the dangers of an ideology of climate inaction:
Climate wonks regularly warn that “business as usual” cannot avert climate change. But, while that is true, the phrase itself betrays a neoliberal obsession with making “business” fit for purpose – a tweak here, a nudge there – as if citizens were merely passive subjects of larger economic forces. We all have an active role to play in shaping the economy. But to do so requires that we first shake off the constraints that neoliberal thinking has placed on the public imagination.
The policies that have resulted from this mindset – defunding or otherwise curtailing public investment, deregulating the economy, and decentralizing democracy – have prevented the US from weaning itself off fossil fuels. Policymakers from both parties have refused to advocate, or even countenance, public investments in carbon-free alternative energy sources and infrastructure.

The belief that government can only ever impede economic dynamism represents a sharp departure from the Keynesian worldview that dominated policymaking from the 1940s to the 1960s. Policies based on the belief that government spending on public goods complements the private sector, rather than crowding it out, helped the US achieve unprecedented growth in the postwar era.

In a Keynesian economic regime, government interventions are regarded as necessary to solve coordination problems, which is precisely what climate change is. Sadly, a brief revival of Keynesian thinking after the 2008 financial crisis was quickly stifled by the politics of austerity across the West, foreclosing efforts to reduce GHG emissions through large public investments in transportation, green public housing, and research and development.
- Ben Parfitt rightly questions how subsidies for increased fossil fuel extraction can possibly be reconciled with a viable climate policy. Sarah Lawriniuk discusses the impact suburban sprawl is having in exacerbating carbon pollution. And Nicole Mortillaro reports on the progress some countries have made in actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

- Paul Adams laments the current single-issue hive mind in Canada's political media, particularly in contrast to the wide coverage once expected from any newspaper.

- But lest anybody think that this week's common focus hasn't given rise to some worthwhile commentary, Murray Mandryk argues that we should seek more political leaders willing to tell difficult truths. And Hayden King theorizes that Jody Wilson-Raybould's revelation of the rot in Canadian colonial politics could help lay the groundwork for something better.

- Finally, Luke Savage makes the case to abolish the extreme concentration of wealth in order to ensure that everybody is able to meaningfully participate in political decision-making.

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